The Azores Islands are one of the world's best destinations for encountering whales and dolphins within the wild which makes it one of the best destinations for whale conservation. Attracted by the deep waters that occur close to shore, the deep underwater drop offs and the abundance of food, more than 25 species of whales and dolphins are reported to the Azores waters - about 30% of all the cetacean species known.
Considered a sperm whale “hotspot", it is also on the route of some migrating species, such as the blue, fin and sei whales. Few people know the Azores as a blue whale destination, but in fact it is one of the best places in the North-East Atlantic to get up close with the biggest animal on Earth (up to 30 metres in length and 190 tonnes).
This whale volunteer project is run by a team of marine biologists who have been conducting whale photo- ID studies in the Azores for over 10 years and focuses mainly on the individual identification of blue and sperm whales. Blue whales are one of the least researched species of cetacean, so to be able to conduct research on them throughout this marine conservation project is a huge privilege.
Even though they are at the top of their individual food chains due to their huge stature, most whales are seriously endangered. There are thought to be only around 300 North Atlantic right whales remaining, with the number of other species varying from around 10,000 – 90,000. Whales are big, and this makes them bigger targets in the water for anyone who wishes them harm. Currently the situation is salvageable, but if things continue as they are currently then this could change and we could begin to lose many of the species of whale we have become accustomed to seeing in our oceans.
Whales suffer from similar problems as many other marine-based animals. These problems include: